Prior influenza infection is a risk factor for invasive meningococcal disease. Quantifying the fraction of meningococcal disease attributable to influenza could improve understanding of viral-bacterial interaction and indicate additional health benefits to influenza immunization.
A time series analysis of the association of influenza and meningococcal disease using hospitalizations in 9 states from 1989-2009 included in the State Inpatient Databases from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the proportion of positive influenza tests by subtype reported to the Centers for Disease Control. The model accounts for the autocorrelation of meningococcal disease and influenza between weeks, temporal trends, co-circulating respiratory syncytial virus, and seasonality. The influenza-subtype-attributable fraction was estimated using the model coefficients. We analyzed the synchrony of seasonal peaks in hospitalizations for influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, and meningococcal disease.
In 19 of 20 seasons, influenza peaked≤2 weeks before meningococcal disease, and peaks were highly correlated in time (ρ = 0.95; P <.001). H3N2 and H1N1 peaks were highly synchronized with meningococcal disease while pandemic H1N1, B, and respiratory syncytial virus were not. Over 20 years, 12.8% (95% CI, 9.1-15.0) of meningococcal disease can be attributable to influenza in the preceding weeks with H3N2 accounting for 5.2% (95% CI, 3.0-6.5), H1N1 4.3% (95% CI, 2.6-5.6), B 3.0% (95% CI, 0.8-4.9) and pH1N1 0.2% (95% CI, 0-0.4). During the height of influenza season, weekly attributable fractions reach 59%. While vaccination against meningococcal disease is the most important prevention strategy, influenza vaccination could provide further protection, particularly in young children where the meningococcal disease vaccine is not recommended or protective against the most common serogroup.